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GOP, Democrats fight over legality of suing Obama

WASHINGTON — A planned House Republican lawsuit against President Obama is justified because his actions carrying out the health care law dangerously exceed his powers, constitutional lawyers backing the litigation told lawmakers Wednesday.

Attorneys allied with Democrats in opposing the election-year suit said it’s the GOP that’s going too far by trying to resolve a political dispute by handing the question to the federal courts to decide.

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The lawyers appeared before the House Rules Committee, which is considering Republican-written legislation authorizing the House to file the lawsuit. House Speaker John Boehner, Republican from Ohio, has said he wants to take legal action because Obama has abused his authority to carry out laws Congress approves, specifically by delaying a health care law requirement that many employers provide medical coverage for workers.

In recent months, Republicans have attacked Obama for taking such actions as having the Environmental Protection Agency curb emissions from coal-fired power plants, raising the minimum wage for federal contractors, and blocking the deportation of children illegally brought into the United States by their parents. GOP lawmakers say their lawsuit is simply an attempt to defend Congress’s powers against a president who has made a habit of acting unilaterally to carry out personal policy preferences.

‘‘This is not a political issue. This is not an issue that should pit Republicans against Democrats,’’ said Representative Pete Sessions, Republican from Texas and chairman of the Rules Committee.

‘‘Any person interested in our Constitution and our brilliant system of separation of powers should be worried about what is currently happening in our country,’’ he said.

Democrats mocked the legal action as a purely political exercise that is doomed to failure but aimed at appeasing conservatives who want to see Obama impeached. The Rules Committee’s top Democrat, Representative Louise Slaughter of New York, called it ‘‘preposterous’’ and noted that in effect Republicans are filing suit over a delay in a part of a law that every GOP lawmaker opposed and that the House has voted about 50 times to repeal or pare back.

‘This is a partisan political stunt timed to . . . midterm elections.’

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‘‘This is a partisan political stunt timed to peak in the House of Representatives in November, right as the midterm elections are happening,’’ Slaughter said. ‘‘The House majority is suing the president simply for doing his job.’’

The House is expected to vote on the resolution before leaving for its August recess.

On Wednesday, each party sought ammunition by inviting legal experts to testify.

Elizabeth Price Foley, a Republican witness, a law professor at Florida International University, said Republicans have ‘‘an excellent chance’’ of winning a dispute over the meaning of the constitutional provision that the president ‘‘shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.’’

That was countered by attorney Simon Lazarus of the Constitutional Accountability Center, a Democratic witness who said the Constitution gives presidents authority to make reasonable and needed adjustments as laws are translated into government action.

Responding to outcries from business groups, Obama has twice delayed the section of the 2010 health care law requiring companies with 50 or more employees working 30 or more hours a week to offer health care coverage or pay fines.

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